Product: Piega P4L - floorstanding loudspeakers
Manufacturer: Piega of Switzerland - Switzerland
Approx. price: 2,2000 Euro/$ (pair)
Reviewer: Stefano Monteferri
I won't tell you that we at TNT only review what we like, disregarding everything else, but there are things that do somehow attract my attention, and which I'd like to spend many happy musical hours with.
Yet, to obtain (even only for a test) what wakes up my interest is seldom easy, often I have to listen to something, sometimes very good stuff, that just doesn't do it for me...
The "Piega P4L" case, instead, did fulfill my hopes - I listened to them at Italy importer's, and I was immediately fascinated by their sound, their look, and their build technology. I realized straight away that I had to tell all about this speaker, so that TNT readers could get to know it; thus I engaged in the usual grovelling to obtain the P4Ls for our magazine to test.
All the info about Piega brand (philosophy, products, people, etc.), are available on the net, on www.piega.ch, the Swiss company's official site.
The P4Ls show a particular, to say the least, aesthetic look - an extruded aluminum triangular frame, fine brushed, about 1-meter tall and decidedly slim, weighting 16 Kg, vaguely reminding of an organ pipe, with a drilled metal front grill (alternatively, an usual black-cloth one is available).
The look, while firmly modern, is somewhat stylish, intriguing and a-tipical.
The drivers, locked into the frame, look a little "restrained" in it (especially the tweeter), wich led me to foresee some problems with vertical soundstage (this, as we'll see, was totally contradicted during our listening test... :-).
Once the grill is removed, you can see that Piega designers used an hybrid solution for their P4Ls - a Piega manufactured ribbon tweeter labelled LDR/II, and a little and fast 13-cm LDB woofer.
Among its specs, applied power rating goes from 20 to 200W, the sensitivity is rated at 89db, the impedance is given at 4 ohms, for a frequency response going from 38Hz through 50kHz (+/-2dB).
I have no info about the x-over, bar its evident ignorance of bi-wiring - there are only two gold plated cable terminals, placed in a recess in the loudspeaker base (that is, under it). An unfair placement for the plug/unplug maniac reviewer, yet good (at least aesthetically) for the customer.
The two P4Ls I got for this test weren't out-of-the-box, and had been used for other reviews and/or demos. The positive thing, here, is that this way I could avoid the boring practice of running-in; the negative one was that one of the two ribbon tweeter membrane was a little damaged, near the edge, but it seemed to have no particular influence on the listening test.
Cool and hi-tech looks
Just to solve my initial fears, the first characteristic, is the wonderful recreation of virtual soundstage - wide, deep, and made up with sharply focused elements. You inevitably breath that somehow light air, where the space between the instruments becomes somehow measurable; an air that suddenly becomes thick and real, as soon as you, wandering through that space, meet the elements that virtually inhabit it.
This facet of the speaker fascinated me; I was concentrating hard, but also in that state of relaxation needed to absorb all those musical events whose materialization you are somehow waiting for.
You have to get beyond this stunning soundstaging in order to proceed with the speaker's critical evaluation; a sound comprising a fascinating and highly transparent mid and high range, extremely defined and discerning every musical texture, without being aggressive and/or boring.
Female voices are really very beautiful. reproduced with admirable precision, sporting a lack of grain, clear and clean in a way directly dependant on the gear preceeding the P4Ls.
It's interesting to analyze the little ribbon tweeter's role in this - to listen to the way it can render detail and nuances, up to a point where you are surprised that, while being so analytical, it is also very far from being agressive.
Also the crossover region is convincing, because it can't be significatively criticized, confirming the good work of Piega designers, who reached a good synergy between the very fast and very accurate ribbon tweeter LDR/II and the LDB woofer used for the P4Ls (and when you are dealing with drivers with such different characteristics, your work ain't easy...).
The mid-lows, once the speakers are correctly positioned, can't be seriously criticized, being fast and articulated, with no sign of bloom.
The bass has good authority, though not particularly heavy, down to very respectable frequencies, considering the little loudspeaker inner volume (I guess that it really reaches the 50 Hz flat), featuring some smoothness, yet remaining fast and clear.
It must be pointed out that the speaker's behaviour is highly coupling-depending: with its original feet directly placed on the floor, the bass was more invading and not completely coherent.
Switching to spike feet radically changes its sound, that becomes somewhat light, yet decisively easier and faster; images improve and the mid becomes drier
In the end, I obtained the best compromise with the "usual" magic stop-door tabs (here the Italian review), that allowed me to obtain an excellent tonal balance, a warmer sound, with no limitations of the speakers' exceptional abilty for soundstaging.
Speaking about dynamics, what we have here is a very good result in the microdynamics test, where P4Ls are helped by the high resolution and accuracy of their ribbon tweeters, that simply miss nothing. Further help comes from the speed the little woofers.
The genetic heritage of the Piega doesn't allow for "explosive" macrodynamics, and their behaviour, seen from that point of view, is not a breathtaking one, at least in my room, not "easy" for that test. More than once, looking for an emotional and "physical" contact, I ended up with the preamplifier knob turned toward unusual levels; but I always changed my mind, because of that light feeling I had, of going against the philosophical approach of those fine swiss speakers.
Moreover you need, neutral, transparent and balanced cables which bearing in mind the previous paragraphes, seem to be the best choice: I used, with very good results, the AM Audio AMP-5 speaker cables, while with our FFRR, notoriously rather bright, the sound seemed a little too much "electrified".
I recommend the use of the stop-door (here the Italian review), or similar things (here other italian reviews), also a light backward tilt is worth a try.
Good for a descerning audience, they have respect for the musical signal that they receive. Their appearance and the technological solutions go together to produce a characterful result. Piega P4Ls are a choice made with the heart and, at the same time, with the brain.
At first you are stunned by its wonderful soundstaging; later on, you can understand that their abilities in term of transparency and accuracy allowing you to become lost in the musical texture delivered. As a result the speakers constantly dig out hidden details and nuances from familiar recordings.
Give them the ancilliaries to work at their best, and you'll be paid with moments of absolute emotion. Give them lesser attention, and you will never know their potential abilities.
In this price level there are, in my opinion, very interesting loudspeakers, that are worth their whole price, and other speakers that are not worth even the half of it: I would surely place the Piega P4Ls among the first ones. Absolutely to be auditioned!
A heart felt thank-you goes to the Italian importer Nabla, for giving us this speakers to test, let me also thank our dearest Andrea Vignapiano, well-known to the members of our TNT mailing list, who ended up as the "sponsor" of the whole operation.
© Copyright 2000 Stefano Monteferri - https://www.tnt-audio.com
Translation: Carlo Iaccarino
Supervisor: Geoff Husband